Fortification Friday: Trous-de-loup… French for pits in the ground

Trous-de-loup!  Oh-la-la! Anything in French just sounds sweeter… dare I say romantic?


Mahan listed Trous-de-loup as a type of obstacle. What is a Trous-de-loup, anyway?  Um… a straight translation would be something like “holes.”  In the context of military fortifications, Mahan described them as pits, but kept the French nomenclature.  Now these were not just random holes in the ground.  Rather these were fashioned in an orderly manner to serve as an obstacle:

Trous-de-loup. These are pits in the form of an inverted truncated cone, or quadrilateral pyramid; their diameter at top is six feet, their depth six feet, and width at bottom eighteen inches.  A stake is, in some cases, planted firmly in the bottom, its top being sharpened, and the point a few inches below the upper circle.

Mahan offered Figure 28 to illustrate Trous-de-loup:


Let us focus on the left side of Figure 28 for a moment where the pits are demonstrated to the dimensions Mahan specified in the text:


As obstacles go, the Trous-de-loup broke up the ground over which the attacker advanced.  And notice the specified dimensions.  At six foot depth, this ensured the attacker could not gain a lodgement which was not dominated from the defender’s parapets. This pit was dug from the surface level, giving no artificial elevation to aid the attacker. Furthermore, the attacker would have to share the eighteen inch bottom with, if the option were exercised, a post or stake.  Certainly not something an attacker would like to deal with while crossing the “beaten zone” to get at a fortification.

Trous-de-loup are generally placed in three rows, in quincunx order, a few yards in front of the ditch.  They are readily laid out by means of an equilateral triangle, formed of cords, the sides of the triangle being eighteen feet; the angular points mark the center of the pits….

Quincunx order?  Yes, a pattern… arrangement, if you will.  Quick, familiar reference – pick up a six sided dice and look at the five side.  Scott Manning in one of his Wednesday Warpaths will likely point out to us that quincunx is Latin.  It derived from a name for the denomination of Roman currency.  The geometric pattern served as a good arrangement orchards.  And the Roman legions sometimes used it as a tactical formation… but that’s Scott’s shtick.

To illustrate Mahan’s suggested placement of trous-de-loup, let us drop some equilateral triangles on the figure:


Regular placement of obstacles forces the attacker to adopt predictable approach methods. This enables the defender to better place larger weapons… like artillery… to achieve the maximum effective damage.  So don’t scoff at Mahan’s triangles.  There’s a reason for the specification and, in tactical parlance, it rhymes.

With the arrangement set, the digging would commence. And that leads to the question – what to do with the removed dirt?

The earth taken from them is spread over the ground between them, and is formed into hillocks to render the passage between them as difficult as possible.

Looking back at the top portion of the figure, we see that illustrated:


Notice how the “hillocks” would serve to force the attacker to scale more elevation and at the same time put the men above the line of sight from the parapet. So if the enemy stayed in the six foot deep hole, he was exposed to fire from the defender.  And if the attacker attempted to advance through (as in skirting around) these pits, he was silhouetted, exposed, and bunched to the fire of the defender.   The word sometimes used in military discussions is “canalized”, as in redirecting the flow of the enemy’s attack into streams.  I know… a tricky use of the word, but this is the profession that derived the term “uncoilation” to describe movement out of an assembly area….

Continuing with the arrangement of pits, these trous-de-loups get better:

If brush wood, or light hurdles, can be procured, the pits may be made narrower, and covered with the hurdles, over which a layer of earth is spread.

So these might be concealed from the attacker’s view, creating a trap of sorts.

Great, trous-de-loup were formidable obstacles.  But the French is difficult to spell and pronounce.  Writing in the 1880s, Major Junius Brutus Wheeler, who taught engineering at West Point, opted to suppress the French terminology while offering a couple variations of the obstacle type:

Military pits. – Excavations made in the ground, conical or pyramidal in form, with small picket driven into the bottom, are called military pits. (French, trous-de-loup.)

They are of two kinds, viz: deep and shallow.

Describing the deep pits, Wheeler wrote:

Deep military pits should not be less than six feet in depth, so that if they fall into the possession of the enemy, they can not be used against the defense.

They are usually made about six feet in diameter at top, and about one foot at the bottom, and are placed so that the centers shall be about ten feet apart.  They should be placed in rows, at least three in number, the pits being in quincunx order. The earth obtained by the excavation, should be heaped up on the ground between the pits.

The deep military pits match directly to those described by Mahan, save the dimension of the bottom and distance measured between pits.   Wheeler offered this figure to illustrate the deep military pits:


As for shallow military pits:

Shallow pits should not be deeper than about two feet, so that the enemy could not obtain shelter by getting into them.

They should cover the ground in a zig-zag arrangement, the upper bases being made square or rectangular in form, and in contact with each other.  The side of the upper base should be made about equal to the depth of the pit.  The earth obtained from the holes is thrown in front of the arrangement, making a glacis.

Wheeler did not offer an illustration to support this description.  However, we can go back to Mahan where the right side of Figure 28 demonstrates just such an arrangement of shallow pits:

Mahan described these as “small pyramidal pits, with pickets.”  Notice to the right of the illustration we see the glacis described by Wheeler.

Closing the discussion of trous-de-loup… er… pits… Mahan suggested other locations for employment of this obstacle:

Trous-de-loup are sometimes placed in the ditch; in this case, their upper circles touch.

This obstacle is principally serviceable against cavalry.

While these military pits look formidable in the diagrams and seem to be an excellent obstacle, there are considerations governing their employment.  As with all obstacles, the trous-de-loup must be “under the guns”, otherwise the attacker would simply navigate through, perhaps only losing a few steps on the march.  Also consider the time and labor required to place the trous-de-loup.  That’s a lot of earth to displace.  The shape of the pit is somewhat demanding for just shovel and pick.

The trous-de-loup worked best when placed in front of the works in the area cross-fired by flanks.  That ground, presumably already cleared by the defender, might not need much augmentation to deter enemy advances.  So one reason we might not see many trous-de-loup in Civil War fortifications is the engineers weighed the effort against benefit.

In that light, Mahan’s last sentence stands out.  Trous-de-loup was rather effective at breaking up fast moving attacks, such as cavalry.  By the time of the Civil War, direct assault of field formations, much less than field fortifications, with cavalry had fallen out of favor.   With that, the engineers found those pits of less importance.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 44-5; Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 176-7.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 4th Regiment, US Regulars

When reviewing the 4th US Artillery Regiment’s summary from the fourth quarter, 1862, we saw an extra line designated for the “Colonel” of the regiment.  That line covered tools and stores on hand at Fort Washington, Maryland. The equipment, which did not include any cannons but did include some small arms, were items not issued to batteries.  Presumably, Colonel Charles S. Merchant, commander of the regiment (more a “paper” command, of course) had direct responsibility for those stores.

But for the first quarter, 1863, that line for Merchant’s stores is absent:


Not a significant change, but one worth pause for discussion.  When an officer received equipment, he was  responsible for the care, maintenance, and, very importantly, accountability of the equipment.  An officer might be held liable if the equipment is damaged or lost while assigned to him.  When the equipment was transferred, the officer needed documentation to support relief from responsibility.   This is one reason we often find correspondence between officers discussing relatively trivial matters of equipment. That said, there was probably some document in Merchant’s personal papers concerning the transfer of three revolvers or various implements to another party.  The good colonel would not want some trouble over such trivial issues to detain him later.  Just something to consider when looking through correspondence.

But we are not concerned with property accountability 150 years after the fact, but rather the status of those batteries.  And here’s what was reported:

  • Battery A – At Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery was assigned to the artillery reserve of Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  During the winter, Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing replaced Lieutenant Samuel Canby in command of the battery.
  • Battery B – Reporting in from Belle Plain, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant James Stewart commanded this battery assigned to First Division of the First Corps.
  • Battery C – Around Falmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Supporting First Division, Second Corps and commanded by Lieutenant Evan Thomas.
  • Battery D – From Suffolk, Virginia and reporting six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Assigned to Seventh Corps and commanded by Captain Frederick M. Follett.
  • Battery E – No report.  Transferred from the Ninth Corps in February, Lieutenant  Samuel S. Elder’s battery became part of the Horse Artillery assigned to the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery F – At Stafford Court House, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant Franklin B. Crosby, who would not survive the Chancellorsville Campaign, commanded this battery supporting First Division, Twelfth Corps.
  • Battery G – Outside Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Assigned to the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve and commanded by Lieutenant Marcus P. Miller.
  • Battery H – Out in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and in possession of four 12-pdr field howitzers.  In January, Batteries H and M (below) split.  Lieutenant Charles C. Parsons retained command of the battery at that time, but later in the springpassed command of the battery to Lieutenant Harry C. Cushing.  Battery H supported Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.
  • Battery I – Winchester… Tennessee, not Virginia with four 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Frank G. Smith commanded this battery, supporting Third Division, Fourteenth Corps.
  • Battery K – Another battery at Falmouth, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Lieutenant Francis W. Seeley remained in command of this battery, which was assigned to Second Division, Third Corps.
  • Battery L – At Suffolk, Virginia with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Lieutenant Henry C. Hasbrouck commanded this battery of Seventh Corps.
  • Battery M – At Murfreesboro, Tennessee reporting four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 24-pdr field howitzers.  After the split with Battery H, Lieutenant Francis L. D. Russell assumed command.  The battery supported Second Division, Twenty-First Corps.

Note that only one battery’s return was received in Washington for the quarter.  All received between April and August of 1863.  The 4th Artillery kept on top of their paperwork.

The regiment had thirty-eight Napoleons.  As such, we see a lot of 12-pdr rounds on hand:


Most of the entries are as we might expect, but one entry raises questions:

  • Battery B – 216 shot, 92 shell, 216 case, and 92 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery C – 96 shot, 96 shell, 384 case, and 192 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery F – 252 shot, 76 shell, 252 case, and 76 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G – 86 shot, 35 shell, 103 case, and 40 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery H – 240 shell and 240 case for 12-pdr field howitzer.  Then 128 in the column for 12-pdr mountain howitzer canister. Though as mentioned last week, I think this was the clerk’s expediency and was actually canister for field howitzer of the same caliber.
  • Battery I – 200 shot, 64 shell, 188 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery K – 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery L – 140 shell and 154 case for 12-pdr field howitzer.  32 canister for 12-pdr mountain or field howitzer, as the case may be.
  • Battery M –  Here’s a question of what should have been.  The battery reported no ammunition for its 24-pdr field howitzers.  I’ve shown the empty columns here (split to the right as they appear on the next page of the form).  So were the ammunition chests empty?

One other question comes to mind when comparing the numbers to the previous quarter.  There are no changes, for the most part, in reported quantities within the batteries supporting the Army of the Potomac.  Is that to say the batteries were “topped off” in December 1862 and needed no more?  Or might this be a “copy what we reported last quarter” approach to filling the form?  Either way we have a reason to question the quantities.

Moving next to see what feed the gunners had for rifled guns, first the Hotchkiss projectiles:


Two batteries with 3-inch rifles and two batteries with Hotchkiss:

  • Battery A – 120 canister, 50 percussion shell, 305 fuse shell, and 725 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle. And note, these are the same quantities reported by the battery for the previous quarter…. go figure.
  • Battery D –  53 canister, 49 percussion shell, 342 fuse shell, and 576 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.  Now these quantities do differ from the previous quarter.

The next page of the summary covers Dyers, James, and Parrott projectiles, along with a few columns for additional Hotchkiss and Schenkl projectiles.  But there is a lot of empty space in that section.  The whole snip is posted for your review.  I’ll focus on the Parrott columns:


Just one battery reporting, as expected:

  • Battery L – 480 shell, 240 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

And yes, that is exactly what Battery L reported the previous quarter… the trend continues.

The Schenkl/ Tatham columns are bare:


So we turn to the small arms:


All except Battery E reporting something here:

  • Battery A – Seventeen Army revolvers and twenty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery B – Thirty-seven Navy revolvers and twenty-four cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C – Thirteen navy revolvers and thirty-two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D – Nine Army revolvers and 139 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F – Sixteen Army revolvers and thirteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G – Seven Navy revolvers and Ninety-three horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H – Seventeen Army revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I – Four Army revolvers and forty-three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K – Twelve Army revolvers, two Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L – Fourteen Army revolvers and 118 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M – Seven Army revolvers and seventeen cavalry sabers.

I would point out these quantities differ from those reported the previous quarter.  And such leaves a conundrum.  Are we to conclude the ammunition quantities reported were accurate, with little to no resupply over the winter?  Perhaps there was some omission, across the board, of ammunition numbers?  Or maybe some clerical magic was in play?  And I’m sure you can come up with other possibilities.  Again, the point here is that the summaries should not be considered very accurate of data sets.  We have to keep the anomalies and questions in mind. But… they are the most complete sets of data available for the subject!

For Sale: Fifty Batteries of Field Artillery, Complete!

There are hundreds of artillery enthusiasts right now looking at their check book balances, just in case…. No, I’m not selling artillery, but in 1870 the Ordnance Department was:


This advertisement appeared in the October 29, 1870 edition of the Commercial Advertiser (New York).

This is like a dream list for collectors.  Thousands of muskets, carbines, and pistols along with accouterments and ammunition.  Then the artillery… “50 Batteries of Field Artillery, complete, with ammunition.” This quantity was deemed surplus and to be sold for disposal.  As detailed in the paragraph that followed:

Bids will be entertained for any one, or all of the foregoing lots.  The bids to specify the price offered for the Arms with Ammunition, for Accoutrements by them-selves. The bids for Artillery will be for Batteries complete, with Ammunition; so much for a Battery of light 12-pounders, and so much for a Battery of Parrott 3-inch Rifle Guns, or for Batteries and Ammunition separately.

Yes, it was a different time… one could just buy a whole battery of artillery with ammunition without so much as a photo ID.  Send a bid in the mail to Alexander B. Dyer.  If your prices are good, the good Chief will accept the offer.

But what would you do with a battery of artillery?  In 1870 there was very little interest in Living History or “reenacting” the Civil War (some might argue the war was still being “enacted” even at that late date).  One might post the battery on the lawn to intimidate neighbors.

But fifty batteries?  That’s enough for an army!  And that might be what some had in mind:


This ad appeared on the same day (October 29, 1870) in the New York Herald. It is mostly coincidental, I think, the Ordnance Department ad ran the same day as Starr & Frazier’s.  I suspect one source for Starr & Frazier’s batteries was from an earlier sale, by the Navy:


You read that correctly, 390 guns, 354 carriages, and over 95,000 projectiles.  A lot of iron for sale!  And this lot includes the 20- and 30-pounders calibers that Starr & Frazier offered.

Let me run some numbers for you on Parrotts and their production.  Might be a little boring, but follow the numbers here:

  • Number of 10-pdr (2.9-inch bore) Parrotts produced for Army contracts during the war – 276 guns.
  • Number of 3-inch bore Parrotts produced for Army contracts during the war – 279 guns.

So an aggregate total of 555 Parrott rifles in the 2.9-inch and 3-inch caliber range. One quirk to the caliber, however. We know that 119 of the 2.9-inch rifles were taken in hand for conversion to 3-inch.  I’ve written on that before. If we need a refresher, drop a line.  But long story short, none of those 119 guns survive today… as far as we know.

Keep in mind those are “Army contracts.”  As we well know there were many Parrotts produced for state or other customers in the early days of the war.  The ad from the Army does not break down the number of Parrotts and Napoleons for sale.  But fifty batteries is somewhere between 200 and 300 guns, depending if those were assessed as four or six gun batteries.  You see, that sale might account for a rather large portion of the Army’s wartime-purchase Parrott rifles.

The numbers for the Navy for the advertised calibers:

  • 20-pdr Parrott rifles on Navy registries – 336.
  • 30-pdr Parrott rifles on Navy registries – 407.

Of those two calibers, a total of 743.  And of that total, we see the Navy selling off 390… more than half…. in 1870.

But wait… there’s more….Was there some event, perhaps, in 1870 that may have generated a market for Parrott rifles?  Um… well there was this:


The Franco-Prussian War erupted in mid-1870.  And the newspapers indicate indeed France was very interested in those Parrott rifles.  Rather accusatory, in May 1871 the Daily Albany (New York) Argus ran:

The radical administration of Washington and the majority of their organs throughout the country, have expressed the most profound sympathy for Prussia in the recent war.  Grant went so far as to congratulate the Emperor William on the near resemblance between the institutions of Germany and the United States. While loud in the expressions of love and admiration for the Germans, they were busily engaged in sending arms to the French.

So… our government worked both sides of the street?  Tell me something new.  What is interesting are the details and “naming of names” in the Argus article. The Remington arms company was singled out for providing $14 million to the French that included over 200,000 sand of arms.  The article did not single out a specific source, but indicated “50 Parrott batteries, six guns each” were sold to the French.

That’s a good, round number – 300 guns.  And it is a rather convenient correlation to those being sold in the fall of 1870.  Just soak that a bit…Those were not all 10-pdrs, and some 20-pdrs were mixed in.  But regardless that is a significant number of weapons taken from the US and boxed up for shipment to France.

And I want to ensure you catch that qualification… this is the number “sold” to France, but not necessarily the number delivered. The Daily Albany Argus later reported, on February 16, 1872, that some of the sales to the French fell through:

Another large contract with which the French Government found special fault as involving fraud… .  From General Dyer’s statement of sales, it appears that the [C.K.] Garrison purchase from the war department was 26 guns, Parrott batteries, with 10,000 rounds of fixed ammunition. This by contract, was to have been delivered in 35 days from the 24th of December, 1870. Afterward the French Government refused to pay on the ground that the contract was not performed in time, and that the charges were exorbitant.  The French authorities claim they were charged at the rate of $15,000 for batteries that cost $1,000.

Hey, war-profiteering mark-up of fifteen times the cost is somewhat reasonable (don’t get me to going on the rates the French charged in 1917, OK? They didn’t give away those Chauchat machine guns, don’t you know.).

Clearly, however, we have a link between the Ordnance Department ad of October 1870 and the sales of Parrotts to the French.  And that connection was rather evident to many on Capitol Hill in 1871… and Dyer was soon sworn in for testimony.  Had there been a 24/7 news cycle, the story might have dominated the media for a week or so.  But it was, after all, a minor affair in the end.  As there are some nice technical details thrown around, the record is interesting, to me at least, for that discussion.

In closing, let me circle back from the 19th century politics… because darn it, this is “To the Sound of the Guns” not “Fancy Politicians” blog.

Consider there are somewhere between 115 and 120 surviving Parrotts of the 10-pdr/3-inch calibers.  Again, that’s counting guns with a “US” acceptance, and not considering those with New York, Pennsylvania, or Navy acceptance marks.  Subtract that surviving number from the quantity of guns purchased on Army contracts during the Civil War (555).  That gives us roughly 435 to 440 Parrotts that were “lost” to scraping or other means over the last 150 years.  Of that number, I ask, how many ended up in France?  And of those that might have reach France, do any survive today?

Whose heritage? Well….SPLC, who’s counting?

On Thursday last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) posted a thought provoking article in regard to Confederate symbols or other public-facing displays.  Rather lengthy article, but is worth a sit-down read.  In the article the SPLC offers:

Following the Charleston massacre, the Southern Poverty Law Center launched an effort to catalog and map Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces, both in the South and across the nation. This study, while far from comprehensive, identified a total of 1,503.*

These include:

718 monuments and statues, nearly 300 of which are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina;
109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons;
80 counties and cities named for Confederates;
9 official Confederate holidays in six states; and
10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates.

An administrative note here.  I’ve included the asterisk after the total number offered here in the quotation.  It is not clear why the asterisk is there as it does not seem to correspond to a notation within the article… at least not one denominated in the traditional sense.   Though I think what the asterisk is trying to indicate is the process by which those numbers were derived.  An explanation of the sources, if you will.

That explanation appears towards the end of the article:

In researching publicly supported spaces dedicated to the Confederacy or its heroes, SPLC researchers relied on federal, state and private sources. Each entry was verified by at least one other source. When possible, preference was given to governmental sources over private, less-reliable ones.

For federal databases, researchers used the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Park Service, and the National Register of Historic Places. Researchers created a list of prominent Confederate heroes and identified municipalities, counties, schools, buildings, monuments, military bases, parks and other spaces named for them.

Further down, the SPLC mentioned some of the other sources consulted.  One of which, I am very familiar with:

The Historical Marker Database is another database with entries that are submitted by the general public and confirmed by an editor.

Most readers know I have entered more than 4,000 entries to that database.  I’ve lost count of the number which I edited or contributed to in some way, shape, or form.  I offer that not to brag so such, but to establish some bona fides here.  I’m no longer an active editor, but I know quite a bit about how that source was built and the editing practices.

Knowing what I know, I have to pause and question the data, and therefore the numbers, presented by SPLC.  Even a cursory glance demonstrates a lot of “data leaks” or overlooked, but expected, entries.  SPLC did not share their “rule set” or go into specifics about criteria for inclusion.  So readers are left to ponder what exactly they arbitrated as a “Confederate” public display.  What are those rules?

Consider, SPLC deemed the “Old Men and Boys” and the “Hagood Brigade” Monuments at Petersburg to be examples of such Confederate iconography.  These are very much what I consider monuments, as opposed to memorials.  Monuments, under my definition, have some specific tie in to the location they occupy.  In the case of those two examples, both were placed on sites where the units mentioned fought.  Both monuments were placed during that big spike (around the start of the 20th century) by southern veterans advocacy groups (one by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the other by a surviving member of the unit).  So this implies one rule used is – A monument, on the battlefield, placed by a southern veterans advocacy group during the time of Jim Crow. 

We also see a monument for Wilcox’s Brigade outside Mechanicsburg.  The main difference here is the memorial, by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was placed in 1999. Likewise, we see from the Fredericksburg battlefield, the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed “The Heights at Smith Run” in 2014.  So an addendum to the rule – A monument placed, even after Jim Crow, on the battlefield by a southern veterans advocacy group.

So given the rule, and it’s amendment, shouldn’t we also see an entry SLPC’s data set for the 11th Mississippi monument at Antietam?  It is a recent addition, famously dodging the park boundaries, and placed by a veterans’ advocacy group.  There is another 11th Mississippi monument, further north at a placed called Gettysburg, which was also placed in recent memory.  That last one is across the street from the North Carolina Memorial (notice the change of my denomination here.. memorial as not tied to historical details and specifics, but more so as a memorialization of event, person, group, or such…).  And of course just down the street…. Confederate Avenue, for those who might be evaluating street names for the data set…. we have the Virginia Memorial.

Picketts Charge 10 Aug 08 513

Is there anything that calls forward notions of the Lost Cause more than a statue of Robert E. Lee at the spot where those battle flags were unfurled prior to that most famous charge?  Seriously, this is the very essence of the Lost Cause depicted in stone and bronze!  I cannot think of anything in the known universe that would better fit in SPLC’s listing.  So why is this memorial not on the map?

And while we are working along that row, what about this memorial at Shiloh?

Vacation 226

A Western version of that Virginia Memorial.  The United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated this memorial at Shiloh in 1917.  Again, we have to ask why this display failed to make the list.

Likewise, we “walk” to another part of the battlefield and see a memorial placed by Arkansans to memorialize their regiments that fought at Shiloh.  In terms of context, there is little difference from the Arkansas Memorial at Shiloh and the Wilcox Brigade or Hagood Brigade memorials mentioned above.  So shouldn’t it be on the list?

Stepping back from statues, let’s consider plaques… more what I’d argue are properly “markers” in function.  Circle back and consider that “The Heights at Smith Run” entry mentioned above. The content is mostly factual.  The only real memorialization here is the dedication line.  Even more detached from any memorialization of the Lost Cause is the SPLC’s listing of General Johnston’s Headquarters in Dalton, Georgia.  That plaque is nothing but “here’s what happened here… just the facts, ma’am.”  So we have another implied SPLC rule in place here – A plaque which relates historical facts related to the Confederacy.

OK, another round of considerations.  There is a tablet standing next to that Arkansas Memorial at Shiloh, that lists Confederate units and details what those units did at a particular phase of the battle.  So if the “Smith Run” and “Johnston’s Headquarters” deserve a pinpoint on the map, shouldn’t that tablet also get a plot?  Oh, and before you answer, consider the US Government, specifically the War Department, placed that tablet around about the same time frame as we see that big “spike” on SPLC’s time line.

And at the same time, how do we reconcile a pinpoint for the regimental tablet at Shiloh, or the 11th Mississippi Monuments, with the presence, in some cases just steps away, of dozens of memorials to Federal regiments and units?  Indeed, if the Confederate displays are all the physical manifestations of “Jim Crow,” then are all the Federal memorials, monuments, and markers automatically “Civil Rights” memorials?  Careful, that’s a slippery slope we are on.  Watch your step or else graffiti becomes a hate crime…..

Another round of questions as to SPLC’s evaluation of listings comes up when considering the Hayward Shepherd memorial at Harpers Ferry.  There is “complex history” and then there is “really complex history.”  This is the latter.  One might fill several pages looking at the angles there… in fact, I think Robert Moore has done just that at some time in the past.  What rules were applied that warranted that memorial’s inclusion, might we ask?

Now am I saying that SPLC’s listing should have thousands more pinpoints?  Not exactly.  What I am saying is that SPLC’s work is sloppy and they should clean it up.  The current data set appears more of a “throw something on the map and see what sticks” approach. The map given given by SPLC calls to mind the “Chilling Civil War” map offered last summer by Slate. More to the point, I am saying that SPLC should have contacted someone who has decades of work spent in the field analyzing these sort of public displays at the ground level.  Someone who could have helped them build a clear set of rules to use when categorizing these public displays.  Clearly, given the information we have, that was not done.

As it currently stands, the SPLC listings are simply unable to support the premise offered in the article.  It is not “firm” or “solid” data.  Is that to say their conclusions are wrong?  No.  But I am saying that we cannot, with a straight face, accept the data as an argument to support the premise that is drawn.  It is a structure placed on a wet sand foundation.

Fortification Friday: Accessories for the fort… obstacles

Bet you didn’t realize the need to accessorize your fort?  Yes, after digging all those ditches, piling dirt for the parapet, then addressing revetments and such, there was still work to do.  This work was to supplement the defensive character of the fortification by way of obstacles or other impediments in the path of the attacker.  Mahan called these “accessories, or secondary means of defense.”

The means employed as accessory usually consist of artificial obstacles, so arranged as to detain the enemy in a position where he will be greatly cut up by the fire of the work.

This is a great “sound byte” that holds true for military application even today – slow down the enemy and make him pay for showing his face in front of your works!

From this premise, Mahan discussed the nature and need for accessories:

Anything may be regarded as an obstacle to the enemy by which his attention is diverted from the assailed to his own situation; but no obstacle will be of much service to the assailed which is not within good striking distance of his weapons. the proper disposition therefore, of obstacles, is in advance of the ditch within short musket range.

Marshes, water courses, wet ditches, precipices, &c., may be regarded as obstacles, if they are sufficient in themselves to stop the enemy’s progress.  But, however strong, they are not solely to be relied on, as the strongest natural position may be carried if not vigilantly guarded.

In placing the ground around a work in a defensive attitude, every means should be taken to reduce the smallest possible number of the points by which the enemy may approach; so that, by accumulating the troops on the weak points, a more vigorous defense may be made. In making this arrangement, equal care should be given to everything, affording a shelter to the enemy, would enable him to approach the work unexposed to its fires. To prevent this, all hollow roads, or dry ditches, which are not enfiladed by the principal works, should be filled up, or else be watched by a detachment, covered by an advanced work. All trees, underwood, hedges, enclosures, and houses, within cannon range, should be cut down and leveled, and no stumps be allowed higher than two feet. Trees beyond cannon range should not be felled; or, if felled, they should be burnt, to prevent the enemy’s movements being concealed.

The military “truism” here – an obstacle not under the watchful eyes of a defender is not an obstacle… and may even be an avenue.

The comment about trees beyond cannon range should be placed in some context, I think. Mahan’s notion of tree lines might be that of a wood-lot or such where the undergrowth was minimal (ah… the days of free ranging livestock).  Regardless his advice was to reduce any cover given the enemy, even if that meant clearing a wide view-shed around the fortification.  Common sense at play again.  However, practical application of such translated to a lot of tree cutting… and in some cases displacing civilians and removing their dwellings.

But there are some things that might lay within viewing distance of the fort which should not be removed:

If there are approaches, such as permanent bridges, fords, and roads, which may be equally serviceable to the assailed and to the enemy, they should be guarded with peculiar care; and be exposed to the enfilading fire of a work especially erected for their defense.

We are thus back to “greatly cut up by the fire of the works.”  And often we see in the plan for Civil War fortifications the provision of additional bastions or works just to provide fire on a crossing point.  Redoubt Brannan, in the sprawling Fortress Rosecrans at Murfreesboro, served such a purpose.  On the south side of the fort, Lunette Thomas covered a railroad and turnpike approach to the fortress. And circling back to the question of dwellings in view, many homes and buildings in front of the works in Murfreesboro proper were left in place.  But Federal officers had orders to shell and burn the buildings should any Confederate provocation arise.  None did, but it is interesting how sort of a “risk based decision” was made in that regard.

But let us direct this discussion of obstacles to something specific and detailed.  There were types of “accessories” which the defender might select to construct as obstacles….

The principal artificial obstacles are trous-de-loup, or military pits; abattis; palisades; fraises; stockades; chevaux-de-frise; small pickets; entanglements; crows-feet; inundations; and mines.

So, next up…. Trous-de-loup and abattis!

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 43-4.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 3rd Regiment, US Regulars

When we looked at the fourth quarter, 1862 summaries for the 3rd US Artillery Regiment, we saw assignments weighted to the “far west” reflecting the regiment’s pre-war duty.  That disposition continued into 1863.  However, there were changes in the service locations for several batteries serving in the east during the next reporting period.  Looking to summaries from the first quarter, 1863, we see “Kentucky” for several batteries:


Most differences from the previous quarter reflected one of those army-level organizational changes occurring during the winter of 1863.  Specifically, the movement of the Ninth Corps to the Western Theater.

  • Battery A – At Albuquerque, New Mexico with two 12-pdr field howitzers and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Less a pair of 6-pdr field guns reported in the earlier quarter. Unknown to me is who commanded the battery at this (or any other) stage of the war.
  • Battery B – No location given or guns listed.  The annotation is “Infy. Stores.”  The battery remained at Fort Point, San Francisco, California.
  • Battery C – Reporting from Camp Bayard, Kentucky with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. But this battery was not in Kentucky.  Part of the Army of the Potomac, the battery started the winter in the Horse Artillery then moved to the Reserve Artillery. Lieutenant Henry Meinell was in command of the battery.
  • Battery D – At Alcatraz Island, California with the annotation “Infy. Stores.”
  • Battery E – No return. Serving in the Department of the South, posted to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Lieutenant  John R. Myrick was in command.
  • Battery F – “With Battery K” at Potomac Creek, Virginia.
  • Battery G – No return.  This battery was disbanded in October 1862.
  • Battery H – “Infy. Stores” with location as San Francisco, California.
  • Battery I – Also “Infy. Stores” but at Alcatraz Island.
  • Battery K – At Potomac Creek with six 12-pdr Napoleons. Combined with Battery F (above).  This battery, under Captain John G. Turnbull, continued to support First Division, Third Corps with the Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery L – “with Battery M” at Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Battery M – At Lexington, Kentucky with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Assigned to First Division, Ninth Corps.  Commanded by Captain John Edwards.

Between twelve batteries only twenty-two field artillery pieces.  Of course there were siege and garrison guns in California, just not a whole lot of them.  The gunners would wait until later in the war for some big weapons to guard the Golden Gate.

Only two of those batteries reported smoothbore weapons on hand.  So we have this:


  • Battery A – 148 shot, 112 case, and 216 canister for 6-pdr field guns that teh battery no longer had (supposedly).  454 shell and 240 case for 12-pdr field howitzer.  And 408 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.  However, notice there is no column dedicated for 12-pdr field howitzer canister, rather just columns for “12-pounder canister, fixed” and “12-pounder mountain howitzer canister, fixed.”  There were, as any good artillerist knows, three distinct 12-pdr canister types in this period.  Might we presume the clerk entered 12-pdr field howitzer canister in the mountain howitzer column for convenience?
  • Battery F/K – 360 shot, 96 shell, 198 case, and 104 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Moving past Battery A’s complications, we have the rifled projectiles.  Starting with the Hotchkiss-types:


Again, just two batteries to discuss:

  • Battery A – 96 canister, 144 percussion shell, 130 fuse shell, and 288 bullet shell in 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery C – 50 canister, 50 fuse shell, and 90 bullet shell in 3-inch rifle.

The next page for rifled projectiles detailed Dyer’s, James’, and Parrott’s patent types (Full page here).  Of those, only Parrott types were reported:


And right where we’d expect:

  • Battery L/M – 618 shell, 435 case, and 265 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

Schenkl?   Well I put in the time to snip and tuck this page:


All for one entry:

  • Battery C – 30 shell for 3-inch rifle.

Well at least we have something to discuss for the small arms section:


  • Battery A – One Sharps carbine, 76(?) Navy revolvers, and 87 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C – One Sharps carbine, 36 Navy revolvers, 36 cavalry sabers, and 173… yes 173, horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F/K – Thirteen Navy revolvers and 45 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L/M – Sixteen Army revolvers and 47 horse artillery sabers.

For the four batteries reporting, that’s a lot of edged weapons.

I would say that one gap in the 3rd Regiment’s summaries which I’d like to “cover” with research is the status of Battery E.  I can guess and estimate, somewhat, what cannon were on hand by working against what I know was in the Department of the South (more accurately what showed up later on Morris Island).  I also suspect that Battery E, like many others assigned to South Carolina, carried a lot of small arms.  But the reasoning for that guess-work is not firm enough for my standards.

Swords into Plowshares,Spears into Pruning Hooks… and Parrott Shells into Wrecking Balls…

The disposition of ordnance after the Civil War has always fascinated me.  The Federals produced enough cannon and projectiles to fight a couple of wars.  Add to that mountains of weapons and ammunition captured from the Confederates.  In short, enough to carry the nation through several wars… provided that no advances in technology rendered the stockpile obsolete… which, well, is pretty much what happened.

The large quantity of obsolete cannon and projectiles was a boon, somewhat.  We have some surviving cannon on the battlefields, in front of courthouses, and in cemeteries across the land as result. In a few cases, those weapons were resold to other nations.  However, reading newspapers from the second-half of the 19th century, it seems rumors of such weapons sales far outnumbered actual sales.  Surplus dealers were another outlet for disposing the obsolete ordnance.

Most notabe was Francis Bannerman IV, who amassed a fortune reselling anyone desirous of old Army equipment.  A browse through one of Bannerman’s Catalog offers tantalizing deals… a dozen decades after the fact.  Imagine Sharps Carbines for a couple bucks!  Or an original Gatling gun complete with carriage!

While rare in number, heavy ordnance appeared in the pages of Bannerman’s, indicating the Army occasionally disposed of large projectiles as scrap.  So what would one do with a large caliber shell?  Well aside from sitting it out on the front porch to impress visitors…

Well, a notice in the New York Evening Post from March 15, 1875 alludes to one other, more practical, use for a heavy shell:

A 500-pound Parrott shell, lately used for breaking iron in Peekskill, was filled with water which froze solid and burst the shell into three pieces, although the iron was upwards of three inches thick.

A 500 pounder?  The 10-inch Parrott, among the heaviest used in the Civil War, only rated 300-pounder.  Well assuming the weight is not some typographical error and assuming the type of projectile is properly attributed to Parrott, that leaves a question.  There were 12-inch Parrott projectiles produced for heavy rifle tests. The bolts for such rated as 600-pounders.  So it is not hard to figure the shell in the same caliber being lighter at 500 pounds… give or take.  Just a swag that might substantiate the story.  But that’s just me being a cannon-guy trying to get all technical.

What’s important is someone was using a very large projectile to break up iron!  Presumably filled with water to add more force to the impact.. as if a 500 pound conical mass of iron needed more “umph!”  Oh, and that water froze, expanded, and cracked the shell, ending its useful second life.  From shell to wrecking ball to scrap… such is the life-cycle for a Parrott shell… one enormously large Parrott shell, mind you.